US Marines Corps’ VMFA-121 squadron flies first “operational” STOVL sortie

The US Marine Corps’ VMFA-121, the first “operational”Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II squadron, conducted its first short take-offvertical landing sortie at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, on 21 March.

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Maj Richard Rusnok, a test pilot previously assigned to NASPatuxent River, Maryland, flew the unit’s first short take-off and shortlanding. He also performed the first F-35B hover and vertical landing outsideof flight-testing in aircraft BF-19. Rusnok was accompanied on his flight by VMFA-121 commanding officer LtCol Jeffrey Scott, who was flying chase in a second F-35B.

 “The first STOVL flight for an F-35B outside of the testenvironment was another milestone achieved by the Marine Corps and the GreenKnights today here at MCAS Yuma,” Scott says.  “The F-35 program and specifically the F-35B have madesignificant progress to make this possible.”

 The USMC says VMFA-121 will grow over the next year orso to include about 300 personnel. It is also scheduled to receive a total of16 F-35Bs before the end of 2013, the Marines say.

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